Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange – initial reactions. [UPDATED]

Gilad Shalit speaking to the Israeli public from captivity in 2009. Israel released 20 prisoners to get this tape.

Please note update below, regarding Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

News has broken of an apparent prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas — Gilad Shalit will be swapped for what’s being called “1000 Palestinian prisoners,” including some Israel has said it would never release. In these cases, a perfectly round number is best seen as a metaphor for “somewhere in the vicinity of” but of course I could be wrong. And, of course, we’ve been here before. So, I’ll believe it when I see it.

I’m genuinely thrilled that Shalit might finally be going home — but I can’t help but feel equally genuine rage over the lies Israel has told and the blood it’s spilled during the 64 months of his captivity, most of it in the name of refusing to negotiate the very deal it now says it’s closed.

The day before Shalit was captured, Israel kidnapped two Palestinian men, suspected Hamas members, from their Gaza homes. It actually matters that Shalit was in uniform and on duty when he was captured, whereas the two Palestinians in question were kidnapped from their homes. No one ever talks about the Israeli kidnapping — all Israel has to say is “suspected Hamas members” for the world to stop caring — but for Israel to act as if Hamas engaged in some horrific, inhuman act against The Middle East’s Only Democracy ™ while it was, I don’t know, out picking daisies — makes me want to put my head through a wall.

And the simple truth is that in refusing to negotiate for X amount of time, Israel extended Shalit’s captivity. I don’t know by how much, but if they were so anxious to get him home, you would think they would have acted to bring him home. Instead, they engaged in constant, brutal violence against the people of Gaza.

In engaging in constant, brutal violence against the people of Gaza, Israel further extended Shalit’s captivity. Because people tend to balk at having polite conversation with their enemies while their enemies are shattering their cities (in July 2009, for instance, the United Nations Development Program reported that Israeli bombardment and bulldozing created half a million tons of rubble during the Gaza War).

The hundreds upon hundreds of Palestinians killed in Israel’s mindless, immoral, and frankly counter-intuitive efforts to bring Shalit home without negotiations, will never come home. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of children will never again receive their father’s kiss or be held in their mothers arms because either their parents were killed, or they were. My country has the blood of hundreds upon hundreds of children on its hands, all so that we could teach Hamas a lesson.

Following is a short list of just some of what Israel has done since June 2006 in an effort to not strike the deal it’s just announced:

  1. June 28, 2006 - Israel launches an assault on Gaza, said to be aimed at freeing Shalit. Damage done to Gaza’s infrastructure in the first few days includes the destruction of several bridges and the Strip’s single power plant, leaving much of Gaza without electricity or running water.
  2. June 29, 2006 – The IDF kidnaps 64 Palestinian legislators and officials from inside Gaza, including eight government ministers.
  3. October 10, 2006 – The UN reports that a total of 256 Palestinians have been killed since June 28, of whom 60 are children. 848 have been injured. Two Israeli soldiers have been killed and 31 Israelis injured. In response to the operation, Hamas has fired 465 Qassam rockets into Israel.
  4. November 1, 2006 – Israel launches “Operation Autumn Clouds,” focusing its attack on the Beit Hanoun neighborhood which frequently serves as a base for rocket fire into Israel. At least 82 Palestinians are killed and 260 injured, and HaAretz concludes that “the IDF wreaked havoc and terror… but despite all this, the declared aim of the operation was not achieved and the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel continues.” In November, the UN expresses its “shock at the horror of Israeli targeting and killing of Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun while they were asleep and other civilians fleeing earlier Israeli bombardment.”
  5. February 27, 2007 – Israel launches Operation Warm Winter; between Feb 27 and March 4, Israeli forces kill 120 Palestinians, including 34 children, and 269 Palestinians are wounded. In the course of hostilities, 224 rockets and 49 mortars are fired into Israel; one Israeli is killed and 14 injured.
  6. December 27, 2008 – Israel launches Operation Cast Lead (the Gaza War). In the first day, at least 225 Palestinians are killed and 700 wounded; Israeli human rights monitor B’tselem reports that between December 27 and January 18, 2009, Israeli forces kill 1,387 Palestinians, of whom 773 weren’t involved in hostilities; 119 were under the age of 11. Three Israeli civilians are killed by Qassam rocket fire, six Israeli soldiers are killed in combat, and four by friendly fire.

I’m Israeli, and I love my home and my people. When Shalit was captured, I was glued to the news, and I wept with each new scrap of information, about him, and about the two soldiers killed in the same attack, Lt. Hanan Barak and Staff-Sgt. Pavel Slutzker.

But my country should neither celebrate, nor pat itself on the back today. There is nothing but shame in this deal. Shame, and rivers of blood, and Shalit’s own extended suffering. We should welcome him home with gentle, loving arms, and sue for peace.

But that’s not going to happen, is it.


UPDATE: To learn more about the Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, click here for the fact sheet produced by the Institute for Middle East Understanding. A few highlights:

  1. Since 1967, “Israel has imprisoned upwards of 700,000 Palestinians, or about 20% of the population.”
  2. There are currently somewhere between 5,200 and over 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
  3. Amnesty reports “consistent allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including of children.”
  4. More than 7000 Palestinian children have been arrested and imprisoned since September 2000, 87% of whom report being subject to physical violence while in custody.

Crossposted at Emily L. Hauser In My Head.


2 Responses to Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange – initial reactions. [UPDATED]

  1. “But that’s not going to happen, is it.”

    Not only will that not happen, but you will be branded a self-hating Jew or antisemitic for even suggesting it. I have no idea what the Israeli government hopes to achieve. I wonder if they even know.

    • And I already have been…!

      But I’m not the only Israeli or the only Jew who thinks this way, I promise. Look into Americans for Peace Now and J Street, the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum, Shiekh Jarrah Solidarity and/or Combatants for Peace. They’re all good places to start getting a feel for the fact that not everyone walks lock-step with the Israeli government.

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